I do indeed remember exactly was I was 10 years ago at this very moment -- sitting at my desk (not this one, a different one, many convoluted financial transactions and one bankruptcy ago), watching a newsroom TV out of one eye and waiting for the Bush White House to go ahead and finally unleash the shock and awe they'd been promising for months. The news of air strikes on Baghdad came in the evening, as I'd expected (dawn over Iraq, after all) and when it did, it came wrapped in something that I -- and virtually no one else -- remembers a decade later. It was a head fake, at best, or maybe even a lie. Probably a lie...because there were so many of them,
That's the Daily News front page from March 20, 2003 up top of this post. Confusing? Why dies it show Saddam Hussein AND Osama bin Laden? Right when the bombers were on their flight path to the Iraq, the Pentagon leaked out a separate report that troops were also involved in an operation in Pakistan aimed at getting bin Laden, who'd been on the lam from the 9/11 attacks at that point for 18 months.
Most newsrooms didn't take the bait out of Pakistan, when the big news was over Baghdad. But the Daily News was run by Zack Stalberg, a great newspaperman who did have his obsessions, as we all do. He didn't seem to have great interest in the nuances of foreign policy, but he knew one thing: He wanted bin Laden dead -- DEAD -- for what he had done on 9/11 ("Revenge -- hold that thought," the DN wrote on 9/12/2001, behind a front page that screamed "Blood for Blood.") So there is bin Laden, joined for eterniity with Saddam on my newspaper's start of the Iraq War front page, muddling the mission of the war between the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and a different dictator who had nothing to do with it. All because of Pentagon misinformation that was immediately tossed down the memory hole, in a fog of a never-ending war. How fitting! So much of what was reported that night -- and in the months running up to March 19, 2003 -- was a lie. Even the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News.
If you'd asked me a few years back what I'd be doing tonight -- on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War -- I would have predicted that I'd be writing a long, long screed, cataloguing each and every fib, falsehood and outright whopper told by Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, et cetera. But now that it's here...I'm not going to do that. If you don't know about most of the falsehoods by now, then a) you're new here or b) I'm not a very good blogger. And frankly, it's exhausting enough dealing with the sorry state of affairs in 2013.
It's also hard to know how to properly express the horror of so many lives that were lost or badly damaged, all for no good reason. Earlier today, the writer/blogger Alex Pareene made "fun" on Twitter of the popular meme when he wrote: "10 years ago we had Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Steve Jobs. Now 120,000 Iraqis are dead." Not to mention more than 4,000 Americans. Those facts kind of dwarf anything else one could say.
For what little it's worth, I can state with a fair amount of certainty that the blog you're reading now wouldn't exist had there not been an Iraq War. In the months that immediately followed the shock and awe of March 2003, I questioned why the craft of journalism had failed so miserably to prevent something that was clearly so wrong from the start. I began to question a lot of things that night -- and I haven't stopped, 3,653 days later. I doubt I'm alone in that regard.
That's the weird thing about the Iraq War. Our leaders told us so many lies in such a short time that it started to put a lot of hidden truths into sharp focus -- about rampant militarism first abroad and then in what we came to call "the homeland," about a surveillance state that had placed all the chips on the top 1 Percent while the other 99 Percent fought for the table scraps.